Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Ostrea edulis
(European oyster)



Ostrea edulis (European oyster)


  • Last modified
  • 03 January 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Vector of Animal Disease
  • Threatened Species
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Ostrea edulis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • European oyster
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Mollusca
  •       Class: Bivalvia
  •         Subclass: Pteriomorphia
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Of the numerous species of food oysters (Ostreidae) only about 6 or 7 species are exploited at commercial levels (Gosling, 2003; FIGIS, 2005). The two major groups of commercial ostreids are cupped oysters of the genus Crassostrea and flat oysters of the genus Ostrea (Héral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991). Because of their long history of exploitation and great economic importance both groups have been extensively reviewed for over 100 years (see for example: Philpots, 1890; Orton, 1937; Korringa, 1952; Yonge, 1960; Héral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991; Kennedy et al., 1996). Ostrea edulis is euryhaline enabling it to inhabit inshore waters and estuaries, which means that, despite being less tolerant of sedimentation than cupped oysters of the genus Crassostrea (Yonge, 1960), it can be cultivated under a wide range of conditions.

Oysters have been part of the human diet since prehistoric times and have been exploited commercially for at least two millennia (Yonge, 1960). In Europe oyster fisheries were historically based entirely on Ostrea edulis until their widespread decline at the end of the nineteenth century (Gosling, 2003). The decline in oyster fisheries in Europe was paralleled elsewhere, particularly in the USA, and was largely a consequence of overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution (Orton, 1937; Gosling, 2003; Kirby, 2004). Attempts to redress declining oyster stocks in Europe, which initially involved widespread transfers of native stocks of O. edulis and the Portuguese oyster, Crassostrea angulata, and the importation of Crassostrea virginica from the USA (Carlton and Mann, 1996), resulted in the introduction of oyster diseases, predators and competitors and accelerated the decline of native oysters (Spencer, 2002; Gosling, 2003). The twentieth century marked the start of scientific research into the cultivation of O. edulis which led to successful cultivation of microalgae to feed oyster larvae and increased success in the hatchery production of oyster spat (Cole, 1937, Bruce, Knight and Parke, 1940 and references therein). By the 1960s routine hatchery techniques for the cultivation of bivalve larvae, including O. edulis, had been developed (Loosanoff and Davis, 1963); this technology forms the basis of modern hatchery production of bivalve spat for aquaculture.

Oyster cultivation, based on the management of natural stocks in special areas, dates back to the seventeenth century in Japan and earlier in China and over 2000 years in Europe under the Romans (Yonge, 1960, 1970). Production by the exploitation of wild stocks of many species of oyster have shown fluctuating returns over the last hundred years matched by a gradual increase in aquaculture production between 1950 and 1990 and a major upsurge in oyster aquaculture, particularly in Asia, since 1990 (FIGIS, 2005). FAO statistics for Crassostrea gigas, which dominates global production may include other congeners and should be treated with caution (Gosling, 2003). Total world production of oysters in 2003 was 4.7 million tonnes, valued at US $3.8 billion, over 95% of which was produced by aquaculture (FIGIS, 2005). Flat oyster aquaculture, which accounted for approximately 0.1% of total global oyster production, yielded 5454 tonnes with a value of over US $21 million in 2003 and was dominated by O. edulis, (FIGIS, 2005).


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Ostrea edulis Linnaeus, 1758

Preferred Common Name

  • European oyster

Other Scientific Names

  • Ostrea adriatica Lam.-Middendorff, 1848
  • Ostrea crynusi Payraudeau, 1826
  • Ostrea taurica Krynicki, 1837

International Common Names

  • English: European flat oyster; native oyster
  • Spanish: ostra plana
  • French: huître plate

Local Common Names

  • Bulgaria: stridia
  • Germany: auster
  • Italy: ostrica
  • Romania: stridie
  • Russian Federation: ustritsa
  • Turkey: istiride

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Mollusca
  •             Class: Bivalvia
  •                 Subclass: Pteriomorphia
  •                     Order: Ostreoida
  •                         Unknown: Ostreoidea
  •                             Family: Ostreidae
  •                                 Genus: Ostrea
  •                                     Species: Ostrea edulis

Pathogens Vectored

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The natural range of O. edulis is in the northeast Atlantic extending from Scandinavia to North Africa and into the Mediterranean Sea as far as the Black Sea (Yonge, 1960; Walne, 1965; Alvarez et al., 1989). The history of the introduction of the species to the Atlantic coast of North America, where it now has established self sustaining populations, is well documented (Hidu and Lavoie, 1991). The species has also become established in Western Australia (Morton et al., 2003) and Atlantic North America and is cultivated in California and Washington State, USA (Benson, 2005). Impacts of its introduction are unknown (Benson, 2005).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Sea Areas

Atlantic, NortheastPresentNativeGosling, 2003
Atlantic, NorthwestPresentIntroducedGosling, 2003
Mediterranean and Black SeaPresentNativeGosling, 2003
Pacific, NortheastPresentIntroducedGosling, 2003


MoroccoPresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991

North America

CanadaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Nova ScotiaPresentIntroducedNewkirk, 1989
MexicoPresentIntroducedFunes and Jiménez, 1989
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedBenson, 2005
-ConnecticutPresentIntroducedBenson, 2005
-MainePresentIntroducedBenson, 2005
-MassachusettsPresentIntroducedBenson, 2005
-Rhode IslandPresentIntroducedBenson, 2005
-WashingtonPresentIntroducedBenson, 2005


BelgiumPresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991
DenmarkPresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991
FrancePresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991
GermanyPresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991
GreecePresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991
IrelandPresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991
ItalyPresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991
MaltaPresentAgius et al., 1978
NetherlandsPresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991
NorwayPresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991
PortugalPresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991
SpainPresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991
UKPresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991
-Channel IslandsPresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991
Yugoslavia (former)PresentNativeHéral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991


AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedMorton et al., 2003


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Agius C; Jaccarini V; Ritz DA, 1978. Growth trials of Crassostrea gigas and Ostrea edulis in inshore waters of Malta (Central Mediterranean). Aquaculture, 15(3):195-218.

Alderman DJ; Jones EBG, 1971. Physiological requirements of two marine phycomycetes, Althornia crouchii and Ostracoblabe implexa . Transaction of the British Mycological Society, 57:213-225.

Alderman DJ; Jones EBG, 1971. Shell disease of oysters. MAFF Fishery Investigation Series II, 26. London, UK: HMSO, 1-19.

Alvarez G; Zapata C; Amaro R; Guerra A, 1989. Multilocus heterozygosity at protein loci and fitness in the European oyster, Ostrea edulis L. Heredity, 63(3):359-372.

Andrews EB; Jennings KH, 1993. The anatomical and ultrastructural basis of primary urine formation in bivalve molluscs. Journal of Molluscan Studies, 59(2):223-257.

Benson A, 2005. Ostrea edulis. USGS Nonindiginous aquatic species database, Gainesville, FL. Online at Revision date 20 April 2004.

Berthe FCJ; Le Roux F; Adlard RD; Figueras A, 2004. Marteiliosis in mollusks: a review. Aquatic living resources, 17(4):433-448.

Bower SM, 2003. Synopsis of Infectious Diseases and Parasites of Commercially Exploited Shellfish: Mikrocytos mackini (Denman Island Disease) of Oysters. Online at

Bower SM; McGladdery SE; Price IM, 1994. Synopsis of infectious diseases and parasites of commercially exploited shellfish. Annual Review of Fish Diseases, 4:1-3.

Bruce JR; Knight M; Parke MW, 1940. The rearing of oyster larvae on an algal diet. Journal of the Marine Biological Association, UK, 24:337-374.

Cáceres-Martínez J; Robledo JAF; Figueras A, 1995. Presence of Bonamia and its relation to age, growth rates and gonadal development of the flat oyster, Ostrea edulis, in the Ría de Vigo, Galicia (NW Spain). Aquaculture, 130(1):15-23.

Cano J; Rosique MJ; Rocamora J, 1997. Influence of environmental parameters on reproduction of the European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis L.) in a coastal lagoon (Mar Menor, Southeastern Spain). Journal of Molluscan Studies, 63:187-196.

Carlton JT; Mann R, 1996. Transfers and worldwide introductions, In: Kennedy et al., eds. The eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica. Maryland, USA: Maryland Sea Grant College, College Park, 691-706.

Cole HA, 1937. Experiments on the breeding of oysters (Ostrea edulis) in tanks, with special reference to the food of the larvae and spat. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Fishery Investigations Series II, 15.

Enright C; Krailo D; Staples L; Smith M; Vaughan C; Ward D; Gaul P; Borgese E, 1983. Biological control of fouling algae in oyster aquaculture. Journal of Shellfish Research, 3(1):41-44.

Farley CA; Banfield WG; Kasnic G; Foster WS, 1972. Oyster herpes-type virus. Science, 178:759-760.

FIGIS, 2005. Fisheries Global Information System. Online at Accessed 25 July 2005.

Funes VG; Jiménez RA, 1989. Histological identification of the gonadal phases of the European oyster (Ostrea edulis), introduced experimentally into the north western coast of Baja California, Mexico. Ciencias Marinas, 15(2):41-54.

Gardner J; Elliott M, 2002. UK Biodiversity Action Plan Native Oyster Species Information Review. Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies University of Hull Report Reference No: Z123-F-2001.

Gonzalez-Wanguemert M; Perez-Ruzafa A; Rosique MJ; Ortiz A, 2004. Genetic differentiation in two cryptic species of Ostreidae, Ostrea edulis (Linnaeus, 1758) and Ostreola stentina (Payraudeau, 1826) in Mar Menor Lagoon, southwestern Mediterranean Sea. Nautilus, 118(3):103-111.

Gosling E, 2003. Bivalve Molluscs Biology, Ecology and Culture. Oxford, UK: Fishing News Books, 443 pp.

Harding JP, 1948. An Australian barnacle invades our estuaries. The Illustrated London News, April 24. 468.

Héral M; Deslous-Paoli JM, 1991. Oyster culture in European countries. In: Menzel W, ed. Estuarine and marine bivalve mollusk culture. Boston, USA: CRC Press Inc., 153-190.

Hidu H; Lavoie RE, 1991. The European oyster in Maine and eastern Canada. In: Menzel W, ed. Estuarine and marine bivalve mollusk culture. Boston, USA: CRC Press Inc., 35-46.

Holmes JMC; Minchin D, 1991. A new species of Herrmannella (Copepoda, Poecilostomatoida, Sabelliphilidae) associated with the oyster Ostrea edulis L. Crustaceana, 60:258-269.

Jørgensen CB, 1990. Bivalve filter feeding: hydrodynamics, bioenergetics, physiology and ecology. Olsen and Olsen, Fredensborg, Denmark.

Kaiser MJ, 2001. Ecological effects of shellfish cultivation. In: Black KD, ed. Environmental impacts of aquaculture. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 51-75.

Kennedy RJ; Roberts D, 1999. A survey of the current status of the flat oyster Ostrea edulis in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, with a view to the restoration of its oyster beds. Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 99B(2):79-88.

Kennedy VS; Eble AF; Newell RIE, 1996. The Eastern Oyster: Crassostrea virginica. Maryland Sea Grant College, USA. 1-731.

Kirby MX, 2004. Fishing down the coast: historical expansion and collapse of oyster fisheries along continental margins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 101(35):13096-13099.

Klaveness D, 1990. Size structure and potential food value of the plankton community to Ostrea edulis L. in a traditional Norwegian “østerpoll”. Aquaculture, 86:231-247.

Knight-Jones EW, 1948. Elminius modestus: Another imported pest of east coast oyster beds. Nature, 161:201-202.

Korringa P, 1940. Experiments and observations on swarming, pelagic life and setting in the European flat oyster, Ostrea edulis L. Arch. Neerl. Zool., 5:1-249.

Korringa P, 1952. Recent advances in oyster biology. Quarterly Review of Biology, 27:266-308, 339-365.

Laing I; Walker P; Areal F, 2005. A feasibility study of native oyster (Ostrea edulis) stock regeneration in the United Kingdom. CEFAS, 95pp.

Launey S; Ledu C; Boudry P; Bonhomme F; Naciri-Graven Y, 2002. Geographic structure in the European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis L.) as revealed by microsatellite polymorphism. Journal of Heredity, 93(5):331-338.

Leitão A; Chaves R; Santos S; Guedes-Pinto H; Boudry P, 2004. Restriction enzyme digestion chromosome banding in Crassostrea and Ostrea species: comparative karyological analysis within Ostreidae. Genome, 47(5):781-8.

Loosanaff VL, 1961. Gametogenesis and spawning of the European oyster, Ostrea edulis, in waters of Maine. Biological Bulletin, 122:86-94.

Loosanoff VL; Davis HC, 1963. Rearing of bivalve mollusks. Advances in Marine Biology, 1:1-136.

Mann R, 1979. Some biochemical and physiological aspects of growth and gametogenesis in Crassostrea gigas and Ostrea edulis grown at sustained elevated temperatures. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 59:95-110.

Millar RH, 1971. Breeding and gonadial cycles of oysters in Loch Ryan, Scotland. J. Cons. Int. Explor. Mer., 28:432-439.

Millican PF; Helm MM, 1994. Effects of nutrition on larvae production in the European flat oyster, Ostrea edulis. Aquaculture, 123(1/2):83-94.

Montes J; Ferro-Soto B; Conchas RF; Guerra A, 2003. Determining culture strategies in populations of the European flat oyster, Ostrea edulis, affected by bonamiosis. Aquaculture, 220(1/4):175-182.

Morton B; Lam K; Slack-Smith S, 2003. First report of the European flat oyster Ostrea edulis, identified genetically, from Oyster Harbour, Albany, south-western Western Australia. Molluscan Research, 23(3):199-208.

Nelson TC, 1960. The feeding mechanism of the oyster II. On the gills and palps of Ostrea edulis, Crassostrea virginica and C. angulata. Journal of Morphology, 107(2):163-203.

Newkirk GF, 1989. Culture of the Belon oyster, Ostrea edulis, in Nova Scotia. In: Boghen AD, ed. Cold-water Aquaculture in Atlantic Canada. Canadian Institute for Research on Regional Development, Moncton, 159-179.

Orton JH, 1937. Oyster Biology and Oyster Culture. London, UK: Arnold.

Philpotts JR, 1890. Oysters and all about them, 2 Vols. London and Leicester, UK: Richardson.

Saavedra C; Zapata C; Alvarez G, 1995. Geographical patterns of variability at allozyme loci in the European oyster Ostrea edulis. Marine Biology, 122(1):95-104.

Saavedra C; Zapata C; Guerra A; Alvarez G, 1993. Allozyme variation in European populations of the oyster Ostrea edulis. Marine Biology, 115:85-95.

Saxby SA, 2002. A review of food availability, sea water characteristics and bivalve growth performance at coastal culture sites in temperate and warm temperate regions of the world. Perth, Western Australia, Department of Fisheries, Government of Western Australia, 42 pp.

Sobolewska H; Beaumont AR; Hamilton A, 2001. Dinucleotide microsatellites isolated from the European flat oyster, Ostrea edulis. Molecular Ecology Notes, 1(1/2):79-80.

Spencer BE, 2002. Molluscan Shellfish Farming. Oxford, UK: Fishing News Books, Blackwell Publishing.

Vercaemer B; Spence K; Kenchington E; Mallet A; Harding J, 2003. Assessment of genetic diversity of the European oyster (Ostrea edulis) in Nova Scotia using microsatellite markers. Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canadian Technical Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 2453. Dartmouth: Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Waller TR, 1981. Functional morphology and development of veliger larvae on the European oyster, Ostrea edulis Linné. Smithsonian contribution to Zoology, No. 328.

Walne PR, 1965. Observations on the influence of food supply and temperature on the feeding and growth of the larvae of Ostrea edulis. Fisheries Investigation Series II: 14(1).

Walne PR, 1974. Culture of Bivalve Molluscs. 50 years experience at Conwy. Surrey, England: Fishing News (Books) Ltd.

Ward JE; Newell RIE; Thompson RJ; MacDonald BA, 1994. In vivo studies of suspension-feeding processes in the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica (Gmelin). Biological Bulletin, 186:221-240.

Wilson JH, 1981. Hatchery rearing of Ostrea edulis and Crassostrea gigas. Aquaculture Technical Bulletin, Ireland, 4:1-34.

Wilson JH; Simmons J, 1985. Gametogenesis and breeding of Ostrea edulis on the West coast of Ireland. Aquaculture, 46:307-321.

Yonge CM, 1926. Structure and physiology of the organs of feeding and digestion in Ostrea edulis. Journal of the Marine Biological Association, UK, 15:643-653.

Yonge CM, 1960. Oysters. London, UK: Collins.

Yonge CM, 1970. Oyster cultivation. Underwater Journal, 2(3):138-144.

Links to Websites

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FIGIS Global Information System
IFREMER (selective breeding) français de recherche pour l'exploitation de la mer (French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea)
Norwegian Seafood (nutritional values)


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Main Author
David "Dai" Roberts
Marine Systems Research Group, School of Biology and Biochemistry, Medical Biology Centre, Queen's University, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK

Distribution Maps

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